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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Live Tournament Play

Published in the first issue of Women's Card Player Magazine:

Miss. T’s Talk

Live Tournament Play

Playing in a live tournament for the first time can be quite an intimidating experience. You’ve either been there before and can vividly remember the sweaty palms and heart palpitations, or your about to embark on this passage of rites in the poker world and would, perhaps, like a little help in learning the formalities and etiquette of playing in a live tournament. Good news ladies, I am here to help!

I started my poker playing as a live player, and then became an avid online player later. I still remember my very first live tournament. I had been playing my normal 5-6 hour session of 7 Card Stud, and was encouraged by another local player to enter the Limit Hold Em tournament that was about to start. Due to the number of hours I had logged in at the tables, I was able to enter at no charge except for a $5 entry fee. I had never played a single hand of Hold Em in my life and was quickly coached by my friend on what hands to play, how to play, etc….took about five minutes.

Turns out I had Lady Luck on my side as I proceeded to get pocket aces five times in the first three levels. I ended up placing 17th in about 140 entrants, good for $170.00. I was hooked. From that point on, I was determined to better my game and play in as many tournaments as I could. To do that, I knew that I would have to learn more about the t etiquette and the standard rules and formalities of live tournaments.

To enter a tournament, you simply go to the area that the B&M has set aside for registrations, you will be required to give your name and in most places, you are choose a random seat card, or are assigned a seat for the event. The cost will usually be displayed, with the prize money listed first and the tournament fee listed second. For example, a $50/$5 tournament would indicate $50 to the prize pool, and $5 to the house as your fee to play the event.

Once you receive your seat assignment, you’ll need to find your table, which can sometimes be an adventure all on it’s own. I suggest asking any dealer or floor staff that you may pass to point you in the right direction.

Once you are seated at the table, your chips will usually be handed to you as you turn in your seat card to the dealer, and the placement of the dealer button will be determined. The dealer will deal each seat one card face up; the seat that receives the highest card will be the seat to receive the button for the start of the tournament. Keep in mind that the value of suits rank spades, hearts, diamonds, and then clubs. (TIP: Value of suits is alphabetical, lowest to highest)

The dealer will usually announce the blind structure at the beginning of each level, but it’s wise for you to have a print out of the blind structures for the particular tournament that your in, so that you will already know what you’ll be expected to post as blinds and what you’ll be allowed to bet. The small blind will always be announced first, followed by the big blind and what the levels are. For example, the dealer may say, “Ok folks, 25/50, 50/100.” This would be for a limit tournament, the small blind will have to put out 25, the big blind will put out 50, and the betting will start at 50 for the flop, then raise up to 100 for the turn and river cards. In No Limit, it’s much easier as there will be no maximum limits on betting, however, there will always be a minimum and this will be equivalent to the amount of the big blind for that particular round.

When it’s your blind, you simply set out the chips that equal the value of the blind in front of you. Make sure you put the chips out far enough when your in the blind, or when your betting, that the dealer will be able to reach them, but not so far out that other players cannot determine who’s bet it is.

Always make sure to play in turn. This may actually be harder then it sounds, because a lot of new live players will be lost without a mouse to click on auto action buttons, or without that annoying beeping sound that signals us online players when it’s our turn to act. Pay attention to the action, and don’t simply follow the player to your right, as he/she may be acting out of turn, thus causing a chain reaction of out of turn plays.

As you make an action, verbalize what you are doing. If you’re calling, say so, if you’re raising, say “Raise” then state how much. If your folding, simply push your cards out in front of you towards the dealer, he/she will know to take them at that point. As you become more experienced in live play, you will be able to fold with flair and style, learning to snap your wrist as you toss the cards lightly to the dealer or fold by flicking the cards with your finger tips, etc. However, I do not recommend doing this until you are more experienced with live play as your cards will more often then not, turn up and be revealed.

Also be aware of the “Action Line”. This is usually a line drawn on the felt about 4 inches away from the rail, around the entire table. Anything that crosses that action line can be held as a bet. Therefore, when making a bet or raise, don’t take your stack of chips in your hand and reach out over the line, some B&M will hold you to whatever amount is in your hand once it crosses the line. Count out your chips behind the line, verbalize your action, and then place the bet. This way, if you state “500” but accidentally put out 600, you’ll be able to take that 100 back.

As levels increase, there will come points in the tournament where you will no longer need certain denominations in chips, at this point there will be a “Race Off”. This is to remove the smaller chips from play; I’ll use 25 as the example. Once you reach the blind levels of 100/200, there is no need for 25 value chips, so to remove them the dealer will have you stack your 25 value chips in stacks of 4, he/she will then give you a 100 value chip for each stack that you have. Any left over 25 value chips will be placed in front of you. Some B&M’s will simply give you an extra 100 chip for any 25 value chips that you have left over, but the more common practice is to deal one card face up for every extra chip that each player has. This will start in the one seat and move around clockwise. After all cards are dealt, all the extra 25 value chips will be pulled in, and the dealer will be able to determine how many 100 chips he/she will have to give out. Then, the players that received the highest value cards will be given a chip. Each player can only be given one chip, then their cards will be turned over, and the next player with the highest value card will receive a chip, continuing until there are no more chips to hand out. This is when the ranking of suits will come into play as there may be more then one ace or one king given out, therefore, the chip will be given to the player with the higher suit of the high card first.

One last topic to discuss is “chopping”. Chopping refers to the last players making a financial deal to actually end the tournament without playing it out. Chopping is very common, and in my experience, I have only played a few that did not end in a chop. Chops will depend on the number of people left, the number of chips that each player has, and the amount of the prize pool. When chopping, you must feel that you are getting a good deal or you will need to speak up, maybe making a counter offer. Chops can only take place if everyone agrees, if there is any objection at all, it cannot be done and play will continue. Do not be intimidated or afraid to say “No Deal”, even if you are the only one! If a chop is going to be done by chip count, you can simply ask the tournament director to help figure out the money distribution.

I certainly hope this information helps you and I wish you much success in your poker playing! Now, go out and play LIVE!

Tanya Peck

Tanya Peck can be found online at many different sites playing by the name of MissT74. Tanya is a local to Laughlin, Nevada and frequents Las Vegas for all major tournament events. Tanya can be reached at


Blogger Jacky said...

Thanks for this MissT. I am hoping to play my first live game soon. I have already ordered back issues for Woman Poker Player Magazine, so hopefully will have a hard copy of your guide, in time to take with me lol.

5:49 AM  
Blogger "MissT74" said...

Awesome, I hope this helps!!! Good Luck to you!!!

12:49 PM  

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